With a gubernatorial recall election likely happening June 5, it’s looking more and more every day like Gov. Scott Walker will be facing off against former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. There will be a primary, of course, but barring a last-minute entrance by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Falk is the likely choice. Although Walker’s opponent is basically irrelevant for a good chunk of the electorate who made up their minds a long time ago, I can’t help but be disappointed that Falk is the best Democrats have to offer.
In polarizing times like these, Wisconsin voters aren’t looking for another ideologue. Anybody who goes up against Walker is going to have to give voters good reason to believe he or she will be able to put aside dogma and compromise to get things done for the state. By agreeing to sign a pledge to public sector unions that she would veto any budget that doesn’t restore their collective bargaining rights, Falk already showed she has little interest in compromise.
Walker made the foolish claim he would bring the state 250,000 jobs. So far, he’s only about 244,000 short. It’s clear this recall election needs to be about jobs. Although I appreciate Falk’s passion for environmental issues, it’s a tough sell in tough times. Alhough there were certainly problems with the proposed Gogebic Taconite mining project in northwestern Wisconsin, the company’s remarks were alarming.
According to a statement from GTAC President Bill Williams, the Legislature’s rejection of the plan — which would have created between 600 and 700 jobs for Wisconsinites — “sends a clear message that Wisconsin will not welcome iron mining.”
Now more than ever, Wisconsin cannot afford to be seen as a state that’s unfriendly to business. I worry Falk would only exacerbate that perception by adhering too strictly to her beliefs in strong environmental regulations.
Tied directly to her strong regulatory beliefs is Falk’s record on taxation. In order to make up for Walker’s cuts to the Wisconsin Technical College System, she said last month she would raise taxes on multi-state companies. If we’re trying to create jobs for the state, it’s not the best message to send to businesses (ask Apple what they think about the corporate tax rate). And as Dane County executive, Falk raised Dane County residents’ taxes every year, 14 years in a row.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how the Walker campaign is going to paint Falk. She is the epitome of every stereotype non-Madisonians have about our “77 square miles surrounded by reality.” In the immortal words of Jets linebacker Bart Scott, they “can’t wait!” If you’re a fan of divisive hyperbole, a Falk/Walker election should be right up your alley.
If Walker is going to be successfully recalled, it will be because enough independent voters were won over by the opposition. Falk will undoubtedly have the support of most who signed the recall petitions, but I don’t see how she wins over folks in La Crosse who might not agree with everything Walker’s done but aren’t quite sure he deserves to be recalled.
In my view, the recall process ought to be reserved for things like illegal actions or ethics violations, so unless any wrongdoing on Walker’s part emerges as part of the John Doe investigation, you won’t find me at the polls this June. Regardless, the prospect of a Walker/Falk election should give pause to those of us interested in cutting through the cloud of toxic discourse that hangs over the Capitol. Part of the Falk campaign’s tagline is “Bringing Wisconsin Together.” Unfortunately, I worry she will only serve to push the state even further apart.
Zach Butzler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior majoring in journalism and political science.